Injury-Free Exercise – 11 Quick Safety Tips
Increasing your activity level is great for your diabetes and for your overall health, but it should be an enjoyable and safe experience. Here are a few simple things you can do to help prevent injuries, dehydration, and hypoglycemia when exercising:
- If you have never been active or haven't been active for a while, start slowly. If you feel unsure about your health, talk to your health care team about which activities are safest for you.
Your health care provider’s advice will depend on the condition of your heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, feet, and nervous system. Still, many people with diabetes can do the same activities as someone without diabetes.
- Warm up for 5 minutes before starting to exercise and cool down for 5 minutes after.
Your warm up or cool down should be a lower intensity than the rest of your time exercising. This helps get your blood flowing and warms up your joints.
- Avoid doing activity in extremely hot or cold temperatures. Choose indoor options when the weather is extreme.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after activity to stay hydrated.
- If you feel a low coming on, be ready to test for it and treat it. Always carry a source of carbohydrate with you so you’ll be ready to treat low blood glucose (also known as low blood sugar). This is especially important if you are on insulin and have type 1 diabetes.
- If exercising for an extended period (more than an hour or two), you may want to have a sports drink that provides carbohydrates. Be careful to check the nutrition facts though, you may need to water down the drink so that you don’t have too much, which can cause your blood sugar to spike.
- Wear a medical identification bracelet, necklace, or a medical ID tag that identifies you as someone with diabetes in case of emergency, and carry a cell phone with you in case you need to call someone for assistance.
- Activities should be energizing but not overly difficult.
Use the “talk test” to make sure you are not pushing yourself too hard. If you become short of breath and you can’t talk, then slow down. This is most important when you are just starting to increase the activity in your routine. As you become fit, you’ll be able to exercise at a higher intensity and chat with others while you do it.
- Take care of your feet by wearing shoes and clean socks that fit you well.
You should also check inside your shoes before wearing them. Shoes with silica gel or air mid-soles are a good choice for weight-bearing activities like walking because they are built to reduce stress on your feet and joints. Socks that are made out of a material that reduces friction and pulls moisture away from your skin can also help protect your feet. Some examples are CoolMax, polypropylene, or acrylic (stay away from cotton).
- Carefully inspect your feet before and after activity for blisters, redness, or other signs of irritation. Talk to your doctor if you have a foot injury or a non-healing blister, cut, or sore.
- Stop doing an activity if you feel any pain, shortness of breath, or light-headedness. Talk to your doctor about any unusual symptoms that you experience.